Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 17 – A Few Surprises

I still do some volunteer work for our school district and today was one of the days that I had to meet for a committee I’m on. I brought my camera, in case I had time after our work to go down to the Bayfront and get some pics. I chose to go to Cole Park, one of the more popular places for activities in Corpus Christi. There’s fishing off the sea wall, walking and biking trails, a kids playground, a skate park, and an amphitheater. I didn’t expect much in terms of new birds, but, I figured I’d get a few pictures I could use. Was I surprised!

 

 

Well, not at first. The first birds I saw were the grackles all over the ground. I had to laugh at the picture you see here, because I imagined Jimmy Cagney as the gangster boss with his hands clasped behind his back as he was addressing the thugs under his command. While there was a flock in the grass, I was happy that I focused on this grackle.

 

 

 

 

I turned my attention towards the water, where, beyond the man fishing, a few cormorants were out searching for food. I considered them a whole heard of mini loch ness monsters. There seemed to be some interesting interplay between them as they worked together and then moved off on their own, only to work with the other one. Definitely shifting allegiances for these three.

 

 

 

The seagulls gave me a few smiles. The still pics don’t show the battle for the perch on the light, but these two guys got disrupted a few times and eventually there were three on the light. Then, when I tried to get a picture of the three, they all flew off.

 

 

 

I didn’t mention the fishing pier out at Cole Park, because it’s been condemned. I normally wouldn’t have two pictures of gulls, but, there are some pigeons here two, so this is a pigeon picture. It’s hard to tell from this pic, but the gulls were on the top rank of the railing and the pigeons wee on the bottom. I can’t imagine living downstairs from the gulls in a situation like this. The pigeons didn’t seem to mind in general, but there were a couple who tried to move on up to the top floor.

 

As I moved along the Bayfront, I saw these ruddy turnstones. While I had seen them before, they were a pleasant surprise. I found them in a couple of places along the way. This pic with the two of them appeared to be both of them moving away from threats – one being me. I’m sure when they met here, they warned each other about the danger ahead of them. One of those dangers was me.

 

Then, I saw the willett. While I had seen these birds in the past, I hadn’t seen any this year. It was a nice surprise.

 

 

 

 

Next, I saw this little bird that I thought was a ruddy turnstone at first, but when I focused on him, I realized that it was something different. When I got home, I looked him up and discovered that he was a spotted sandpiper. This was a new one for me, or a lifer, and it was a great surprise. But wait…there’s more!

 

 

 

 

I still haven’t figured out what this one is. Google images caught it as a common sandpiper, but they’ve been so far off that it isn’t funny. It looked to me like the sandpiper feet were claws and this one’s were webbed. I could be wrong though. But, if I don’t know what it is, obviously, it’s new to me. Another nice surprise.

 

 

 

 

My son called while I was walking back to the car and we discussed some of the arrangements for my mom’s memorial service. As we were getting ready to hang up, this pelican came flying by. I had to get this picture.

 

 

 

Finally, one last surprise. This bird, I didn’t have time to identify him was swimming along the way to my car. I’ll be looking him up and identifying him in an edit when I can.

I had far lower expectations for this trip than I had or any of my other excursions so far this year. There were four new birds for the year, with three of them new for my career as a birder. The day was full of surprises and left me in a great mood.

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 11 – This Was No Place Like Home

Mueller Lake Park in Austin is a beautiful park in a high end area of town. Anywhere you go, you have to pay to park. Well, in the park, the parking is free, if you can find a space. I did and took a walk around the lake. While talking with Austinites, I was told that this park was built on the site of their old air port. The lake is full of ducks, some domesticated, some wild, and some in-between. There were a number of different types of birds in the water and in the surrounding areas. I was met first by some coots swimming with the ducks. I believe the ducks are ring-necked ducks. (Google images said “mallard” but Bing Images led me to Ring-necked duck.) This is the first time I’ve identified ring-necked ducks. It’s always a joy to get a new bird! Most of the pictures that I have of them though, was when they were swimming away. This is one of the ring-necked ducks without the coots.

There were a number of domesticated ducks and Muscovy ducks as well. I’ve seen them locally, and, to be honest, they aren’t my favorite birds to photograph.

 

 

I saw some cormorants in different parts of the lake and loved watching them dry off their wings. Apparently, their wings aren’t totally waterproof, according to William Mays, so they have to dry off their wings. In the past I’ve seen ten or twenty of them at a time standing on the bank of a lake drying their wings this way.

 

 

 

 

Grackles abound in Austin as well. Who would have guessed. As I talked with someone walking the trails, because I blocked his path, he told me that it was perfectly understandable and that he loved watching grackles, too. I’m not a big fan of grackles, but ya gotta love the eyes.

 

 

I saw my first few yellow-rumped warblers of the year at the lake. They were hiding in a tree, flitting around quickly when they left, so I didn’t get very good shots, but they were there. You can see the flash of yellow in the pic. They have a similar flash on their rumps – hence the name. One of their nicknames is “Butter Butt.”

 

 

 

 

What body of water would be complete without an egret – a Great Egret in this case. There is such an air of royalty about them. Every move is deliberate as if planned. This one worked hard to shun my picture taking, but I got a few good shots in.

 

 

 

 

 

While there were a few mottled ducks and female mallards, the last duck I’m going to look at is a Crested Mallard. According the the article I just linked, this duck is the product of selective breeding to give this mallard the crest or tuft on its head. It’s apparently a tame bird gone wild. I thought it looked interesting, and so I shared it.

Today was a tiring day – walking around the park, then sitting and waiting on my wife who does contract work for the state. Then, we had a long drive home in rainy conditions. Still, it was a good one. Not only was I able to get some good pictures, I got to spend a lot of time with my wife.

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 9 – Birding and Fishing About the Same

I grew up doing a lot of fishing. When you asked the guys in the bait shops about the fishing, they’d be sure to give one of two answers. “Well, good luck to ye. You shoulda been here yesterday, though.” or  “This ain’t exactly the best time to go fishing, next week is when the fish start running here.” I thought of that today when I decided to make Wednesday my “Wandering Wednesdays” where I travel a bit farther away from home than normal. I went to Indian Point Park which is on the bay between Portland and Corpus Christi. I’ve talked with guys who’ve gotten amazing pictures there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by there and looked at my wife, wondering why I didn’t have my camera. So, today I went expecting multitudes of birds and great picture taking opportunities.

 

The first bird I saw was this sparrow. This feisty little bird saw me trying to steal his soul with my camera and skedaddled across the path and out of the way, but not before I got a few good shots in. Then, I walked down a boardwalk that’s set up to allow you to view the wildlife without harming the ecosphere. There are lots of little “pond” type areas, perhaps large tide pools, that draw the birds in. On normal days. But today was not normal – I was there to take pictures. I saw a flock of gulls a little beyond decent picture taking range and snapped a few shots to see if I could find something worth editing later.

 

 

 

 

As I was walking along though, this beautiful bird flew in. I don’t normally do two pictures of any type of bird on this blog, although they can all be seen in my Facebook Photo album, but after doing a few minutes of fashion modeling after he landed, this tri-colored heron  began hunting. While this was just my observation from this one tri-color, they spread their wings before grabbing at the critters in the tide pools that they see. Perhaps this is meant to strike fear in the hearts of their intended prey. I just thought it was kind of cute. I had high hopes for the day when I saw this tri-colored heron.

 

 

As I walked farther along, I saw an egret off in the distance. I took a shot, but it was too far away for it to  be much of a shot. I walked back, took a few more shots of the heron, and then looked around this park that I’d never visited before. There was nothing interesting in the pier area so I tried to walk down the road past the pools of water, hoping to see something. I saw one bird that was so far away that for awhile I wasn’t sure it was a bird! I’ve decided it was a heron of some kind, great blue or (more likely) a tri-colored. It was so far away that even enlarging it with Photoshop didn’t help. Walking didn’t yield any good shots, so I walked back and decided to drive further up the road.

 

 

I did see another tri-colored heron as i was driving so I pulled over and took shots through the open window. They came out ok, but I liked the shots I showed earlier better. After taking those shots, I tried a different place in this area, but those areas that are normally full of birds were empty. I still wanted a few more pics, so I headed back to the T-heads and my go to spot when I absolutely have to get some bird pictures. I didn’t take any pictures of the grackles, but there were some cormorants, seagulls (surprise!), pigeons, and brown pelicans. Most of the pelicans were sleeping, as if they were enforcing the Corpus Christi siesta. The guy in the pic below, I call him Peligandolf. He’s telling us that we will not pass. I’ll just leave the other types below the last paragraph without any further comment.

Even on a low volume day, Corpus Christi has a wide variety of birds and I love the opportunity to see God’s creation here.